From: Bob Rankin
Subject: TOURBUS - 19 Nov 02 - Setting Up Shop (Part I)
So you want to sell something on the Internet? Today's Tourbus is the first installment in a series that will cover the basics of setting up shop on the Web. You'll learn how to select and register your very own dot.com address, and how to bring customers to your online store without spending big bucks on advertising. Read on!
Micro-Lights make great gifts. Mine is still going strong after a year and a half in service. Please visit the folks at Micro-Lights and tell them thanks for sponsoring TOURBUS!
If you run any sort of business, you really should have your own domain name. People who put business pages on the freebie sites like Geocities, or those who use personal ISP accounts will suffer from a lack of credibility. Which address would you pick if you wanted to shop for shoes on the web?
Having your own domain puts you on a level playing field with the big dogs, and makes the statement that you should be taken seriously.
The old song says "all of the good ones are taken", but that's not necessarily true for domain names. True, most common words, acronyms and surnames have probably been snapped up, but a little creativity can help you find a good domain name. Search engine gurus recommend that you pick a domain name that contains keywords relevant to your product, so something like BLUE-SUEDE-SHOES.COM would be a better choice than EDBO-ENTERPRISES.COM. To do your research, visit
where you can check to see if a domain is in use. Since the WHOIS database contains the name, address and phone number of the domain owner, you can always make an offer to purchase one even if it's already in use. An established business might be loath to part with their domain for less than a king's ransom, but if you visit the site and find that it's not really being used, the owner might sell it for a reasonable sum. Oh, by the way, GREAT-SHOES.COM is still available. :-)
Registering a new domain is not difficult, and you don't have to operate your own server. Most domains are in fact "virtual domains", hosted by a service provider on their equipment. The domain setup process involves these basic steps:
1) Choose a domain name 2) Find a host for your domain 3) Register the domain name
We've already covered the first step. A domain host gives you a place to store the files that make up your website, and provides high-speed access to it. There are MANY companies that offer domain hosting services. Price, features and quality vary widely but you can expect a setup charge of $20 to $50 and a monthly fee of $10 to $30, depending on the amount of disk space and special features you need.
I use WestHost for TOURBUS.COM and several other domains, and have been impressed with their excellent service for several years. WestHost costs only $8/month and includes 100MB of disk space, multiple email addresses, CGI access, autoresponders, graphical statistics and shopping cart software. (Finally, I can be firstname.lastname@example.org!) Westhost will even register your domain for you, which is convenient.
I don't have personal experience with any other website hosting companies but I will caution you against using any that claim to offer free or "$1 per month" deals. I've heard from people that have tried these and it appears you get what you pay for in terms of features, service and reliability.
Ready to register your domain? A few years ago, that meant paying a visit to Network Solutions. There are now over 70 registrars, and you can register a domain for under $10, as opposed to the $35 price STILL charged by Network Solutions. Here's a list of the accredited registrars:
My favorite domain registrar is Go Daddy Software, because they only charge $8.95 per year (less if you pre-pay for more than one year) and their web-based domain manager makes it very easy to update your contact address, change hosting servers, or set up forwarding.
Once you get your website up and running, how do people find it? That requires a bit of promotion on your part. Before you spend money on advertising, it makes sense to register your site with the major search engines and directories. Many surfers considering an online purchase will do a search first, so good search engine positioning gives you the chance to snag potential customers. Visit these search engine sites and look for the "Submit a page" (or similar) link:
You can submit your site for free to the search engines, but getting your site to appear in the first page of search results has become something of a black art. Meta tags, keyword density, and doorway pages are some of the buzzwords that experts in search engine optimization glibly toss about. And doing it wrong can get your site banned from a search engine.
I use and highly recommend the WebPosition GOLD software. It really takes the mystery out of optimizing and submitting your site to the search engines. WP Gold will help you optimize your pages to rank in the top 10, automatically submits your site to the most important engines, and can track and report your positions and traffic.
You can download and try WP Gold for free. I have no financial interest in the company, and I'm not working on commission. I just happen to love this program, and I don't know of anything that comes close.
In my next TOURBUS article, we'll dive deeper into the subject of Internet marketing. I'll give you my opinion on what works, what to avoid, and where to go for expert advice. That's all for now, see you next time! --Bob Rankin
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